The strategic plan focussed on the consolidation and merging of entities that were working separately before the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) was set up. The plan was to co-ordinate innovation from a central perspective for the benefit of all South Africans. Concerns included possible redundancy of the staff from the merged institutions, while there were vacant posts. Members asked if innovators would be assisted with licensing and intellectual property rights. They asked if the funding model for innovations would be a private public partnership or whether it would be an equity stake for the government as a funder. The role of the private sector in driving innovation was not clear to some members.
TIA Strategic Corporate Business Plan
Dr Nhlanhla Msomi, TIA interim CEO, mentioned that there had been a lot of research and development, that was not converted to technological innovation. The manufacturing sector was heavily dependent on imported technology. TIA was set up to try and address the shortfall on technological innovation. He spoke about the strategic vision and intent. On strategic architecture he touched on swot and risk analysis, stakeholder/customer perspective, financial perspective, the innovation, learning and growth perspective and the business processes.
Dr Msomi then spoke about the consolidated business plans. In the Biotechnology Portfolio, four entities had been merged and the biotechnoloogy sector was driven from a market definition, for example health, agri and the industrial. On Tshumisano, he said that it focussed on the expansion and consolidation of Technology Stations Program. Its core clusters were tooling and metal casting, manufacturing and chemicals. Others were advanced manufacturing Technology Strategy, agency management, innovation fund and the strategic Investment Portfolio.
Mr Msomi concluded with an operatonal update on matters such as the filling of vacant posts through recruitment and the establishment of provincial offices.
For further details please refer to the document.
Mr P Smith (IFP) asked what would be done with the staff of the migrated entities. Why would the first TIA product only appear in 2012 when the migrated entities had been working for many years? He asked for clarity on the relations between TIA and the private sector.
Dr Msomi said TIA corporate organogram was specific to the organisation, not all the personnel from the affected entities could fill the available positions. He ruled out the possibility of retrenchments, but the upskilling of the migrated personnel was a viable option. The organisational development research had indicated gaps that could not be filled by the current staff component. The migration process dealt with the legalities first and the vacant posts would be filled till the whole process was completed. TIA was investigating the funding environment, the board had not yet decided if it would be loans, equity or quasi equity. The PFMA (Public Finance Management Act), empirical evidence and the legalities would influence the decision. The research of the migrated entities would appear as a product in 2012 because there was a lot work to be done.
Ms R Shinn (DA) asked about the nature of the working relations with organisations that were involved in HIV/AIDS and TB research. What incentives would there be to attract innovators and ensure that there would be a market for their products? What were the possible hurdles with intellectual property rights?
Dr Msomi replied that the Department of Science had research and development tax incentive programmes for prospective innovators. Licensing could be done jointly with companies that already used the technology needed. Most start ups could not handle the process of licensing their innovations. Ithemba Labs was working very closely with the TIA on HIV/AIDS and TB.
Ms S Kaylan (DA) asked whether TIA would be accessible to everyone and known as a brand. What criterion was used to select Ithemba Labs as a research partner? How were new drugs licensed?
Dr Msomi said the Department of Science had technology innovation programmes that were taken over by TIA. Ithemba Labs was amongst those selected because it had advanced TB and HIV/AIDS research studies which would be on the market soon. Branding and communications would ensure that TIA was known by all interested parties
Dr Mamphela Ramphela, TIA Chairperson, replied that the target audiences were ordinary South Africans. TIA would have to had to learn a language that was understood by most South Africans not the scientific jargon. All that would only be done when all structures were in place and post filled.
Ms S Molau (COPE) asked about the involvement of Universities of Technology.
Dr Ramphela said TIA would be working with Universities on joint research and on issues such as Indigenous Knowledge Systems. Universities of Technology were very helpful in assisting small business in licensing their products and the setting up of manufacturing process.
Mr L Mkhize (ANC) asked about the criterion used to identify KZN schools which would benefit from broadband internet connection. A lot of money was spent on human resources.
Mr Smith enquired on the progress of the integration process and what would happen to the budgets of the migrated entities.
Dr Ramphela replied that the first budget did note the set up costs, hence the need for more money. The Board could not even appoint a CEO before systems were in place. The schools were selected by the migrated enities before TIA came into existence.
The Chairperson asked how TIA ensures that innovation was utilised to address the needs of the economy. He cited an example of the Japanese development model. In the 1950’s the Japanese pirated western innovations and improved them even better than the original product.
Dr Msomi said TIA was targeting high impact innovations that would make a positive contribution to the country.
The Chairperson said Singapore had embarked on a similar programme which was beginning to bear fruit for the city state.
Adoption of Committee Report on oversight visit 1-3 February 2010
Ms Shinn moved for the adoption of the report and Mr Mkhize seconded the motion, the report was adopted without amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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